A recent discussion and a post shared on Bizsugar brought up the issue of increasing blog comments by creating a “DoFollow” blog. Prompted by that discussion I’m going to address some of the issues of the rel=nofollow tag and its use in blog comments.
The original article puts forward a strong and well thought out case from a blogger who believes that those who take the time to engage with her blog should be rewarded with some link love. I have a lot of sympathy for this point of view. I think that rel=nofollow is largely a nonsense. The problem is that mighty Google pushed rel=nofollow for a reason and there are consequences to whether you use it or don’t.
What is this NoFollow stuff about?
Lets go back to 2005 and read it in Google’s own words:
“From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.”
That’s pretty simple and it may even be over simplistic. Basically by nofollowing a link you are saying, “I cannot stand over the content of this site so do not count it as a vote”. While many feel that nofollowed links do indeed pass some kinds of link value, the simple version is good enough for this discussion. A link passes search engine value to the site you link to. If it has “rel=nofollow” this value will not be passed.
What does nofollow look like?
A link in the page source will look like this:
<a href=”http://www.mywebsite.com/”>This is the text that is linked</a>
A nofollow link looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.mywebsite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>This is the text that is linked</a>
Note the addition of rel=”nofollow” into the <a> tag.
Why NoFollow came about
rel=nofollow is an attempt by Google to combat link spam. Two forms of this are massively prevalent and negatively impacting the quality of Google’s rankings. One of these is user generated content such as blog comments. Blog commenting systems and other User Generated Content on websites allow easy ways for spammers to create links on other people’s sites in an attempt to improve their rankings. You can see from the Google quote that comment spam is a deliberate target of Google’s with the rel=nofollow thing.
The second big link abuse that Google targets with nofollow is paid links but that’s not really relevant to this post.
By pushing nofollow, Google is asking site owners to mark links from the comments in their blog as content that they do not want to pass votes for. The links in comments are not put there by you editorially, you do not control them and have not generally even looked at the site they link to so, no vote. As much as I don’t like “nofollow” and I have sympathy for wanting to reward commenters, this makes sense.
Dofollow vs Nofollow on your blog
The case for allowing links in your comments to pass link value is fairly simple. When someone comments on your blog the convention is that they get an opportunity to link to their own content. That has been the convention for years and it facilitates growth and discussion by giving a small bit back. NoFollow removes much or all of the search value for this link. Many just don’t feel it is right to remove that value, so they don’t.
Others want to encourage commenting on their blog and feel that having followed links gives that extra little encouragement for people to comment. Added to that, you will find that there are probably hundreds of DoFollow blog lists and directories so you might get some links out of it as well.
The NoFollow camp
Now the small problem is that in the NoFollow camp you have some fairly heavy hitters. Google has pushed rel=nofollow for years. You are responsible for who you link to in Google’s eyes. WordPress has added nofollow to comment links for some time now.
Potential cons to the “DoFollow” approach
A decision on whether you want to break with Google and remove “rel=nofollow” from your comment links will come down to understanding what it is you are doing. If you go for a “dofollow” blog you are opening yourself up to large volumes of borderline comment spam.
This increase goes unnoticed or is not a problem for some and for others is enough to turn them off the “dofollow thing”.
Can it hurt your site?
It certainly can. Although that is not the same as saying that it definitely will. Let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth on this one:
You are responsible for what you link to in the eyes of the search engines. Obviously, having a DoFollow blog without comment moderation would be suicide but then you should be heavily moderating your blog comments regardless of whether they are nofollowed. As mentioned in the post above, you’re going to want some industrial anti spam plugins and that is fine too.
The thing is, we still haven’t got to the actual problem yet. The real problem will be the hundreds and thousands of comments that look and even perhaps are legitimate that are linking to sites that you aren’t sure you want to be associated with. That is an extra step to your comment moderation and one that could easily be missed.
You probably carefully choose who you link to in your content, aware that links create various associations in the eyes of the search engines. You’ve got to ask yourself “What kinds of comments from what kinds of people will this DoFollow change attract?”.
“I don’t advertise do-follow comments on my blogs like some other bloggers do. I have found that the quality of their comments drastically decreases due to the race to get the most inbound links. I want my comments section to be about quality conversation, not links.” www.robsutton.com
Do a search on Google for “find dofollow blogs” just to understand that there is a whole industry out there of people like me looking for holes in Google’s analysis of links. People who make that search and compile those lists aren’t looking to become part of a community, they are looking for short cuts to rank their site better. When the world of SEO finds a hole (in this case a way to get easy links it thinks are valuable) they don’t play nice. When the SEO world finds a hole it tries to drive a bus through it. These aren’t bad people and many of them aren’t deliberately spamming your blog they are keen to market their site and they are uninformed.
Your industrial strength spam plugin will be working its socks off to deal with the increase in spammers you see but many of them will get past it. But it’s the marginal cases that would create a problem for me. If you go DoFollow with your blog, I think that’s great but if you promote that fact, just be aware that you should plan to do more moderation and make sure that you moderate not just the comment but have a look at the site you link to.
A note on commenting on DoFollow blogs
In the video above, Matt Cutts covers the notion that commenting on DoFollow blogs won’t hurt you but might provide less value than you think. I’d certainly be very happy if a blog that I liked and was motivated to comment on turned out to be DoFollow but I don’t seek them. The benefits of blog commenting are not confined to Page Rank from an individual link. If you are commenting as part of marketing your blog it should be in communities where you want to build relationships. Where what you say and what they say have a natural fit. Because, when they become aware of you and if you say something valuable, you might even get a real link and it won’t be from the comments, surrounded by other non-relevant sites and it won’t have your name as its anchor text and it won’t be nofollowed.
If you need an example, look at the 2 links in this post. The original article is an interesting post that started a discussion. It was shared in an online community and because it stimulated a discussion it’s linked to here. Rob Sutton left an interesting comment in a discussion I found while researching this post. He contributed on a normal, ordinary, nofollow blog and now he has a link.
No related posts.